For over 300 years Richmond Park has inspired poetry and prose from writers such as James Thomson (writer of Rule Britannia), early 20th century novelist/naturalist W H Hudson, renowned 20th century essayist and poet Edward Thomas to Australian poet Rosemary Dobson and London punk poet Ian Dury.
On 17th June, winner of the 2014 prestigious TS Eliot Award for poetry, David Harsent (who lives in Barnes), premiered a new poem dedicated to Richmond Park and its wildlife at an event in Pembroke Lodge to celebrate the restoration of Poets Corner in the Park.
The poem ‘A Dream of Richmond Park’ exalts many of the favourite wildlife residents of Europe’s largest enclosed urban park; the trees and flowers, butterflies, birds, beetles, bats and, of course, the deer.
He celebrates walking in the Park in “a waking dream” to observe the wonderful flora and fauna but beseeches “tread and leave no mark”.
The special event saw David read his new work – which he describes as a “necklace of poems” – to an audience that included Sir David Attenborough, patron of the Park’s charity, Friends of Richmond Park, as well as council leaders, local councillors from three authorities, politicians and other prominent local residents.
Well known actors Anthony Calf, Julian Glover, Stella Gonet and Julia Watson (see biographies) read a range of poetry and prose including works by Shelley, Tennyson, Edward Thomas and W H Hudson.
David Harsent said of his new poem: “I wanted to write a poem that shows the beauty and variety of Richmond Park, its fantastic wildlife and history, but to urge readers and visitors to the Park to treat this fragile environment with the love and respect it needs and deserves”.
Friends Patron, David Attenborough, said: “Richmond Park isn’t just a park, its a very special place; a national nature reserve, a site of special scientific interest and home to a wealth of wonderful wildlife from thousands of rare beetles and birds to over 1,100 veteran oak trees, some over 700 years old.” Sir David, who formally opened the restored Poets Corner, is also patron of the Park’s ponds and streams conservation project.
He continued: "With nearly 5.5 million visitors per year, Richmond Park and its wildlife have never been under greater pressure. Many species are threatened by increasing visitor numbers as well as diseases such as acute oak decline, pests including oak processionary moth and climate change and, as David Harsent says, we urge all visitors “tread and leave no mark” in Richmond Park." For further information, contact Richard Gray of the Friends of Richmond Park: E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 020 8891 0512 M: 07768 022100 Biographies: The Friends of Richmond Park is honoured to have Sir David Attenborough as a Patron. A long time resident of Richmond, his foreword in the Friends’ Guide to Richmond Park states: “Richmond Park is a very special place for me… its wildlife is exceptional particularly for somewhere so close to a major urban centre”.